DRESS CULTUURE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EAST AND WEST
(College of Foreign Languages, Northwest Normal University, China)
Abstract: Dress culture is a cultural phenomenon unique to human beings. As it has different
aesthetic ideas, different dressing concepts and different dress etiquette in China and
west, it forms Chinese and western dress culture of the different connotation and
characteristics. This thesis is divided into four major sections. The first part describes the
different features of Chinese and western dress and why people wear clothing. The
second part describes cultural differences between Chinese and western clothing. The
third part gives an analysis of Chinese and western dress culture. The last part describes
Chinese and western dress aesthetic culture and dress concept. Based on the analysis,
the thesis finally draws a conclusion. Chinese and western dress culture each has rich
connotation and distinct characteristics, which are precious cultural legacy which is left
by human ancestors and are the world culture heritage. At the same time, we treasure
our own civilization of five thousand years instead of belittling ourselves. It is significant
to promote and develop our unique costume culture. We are confident and make
contributions to realizing the rejuvenation of our Chinese nation and enriching the
clothing culture of the whole world.
Key words: Chinese and western clothing; culture?differences?aesthetic culture and
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Costume culture, carried by costume, is a respect of our physical and spiritual life and a mixture of our psychological activities like consciousness, emotion, idea and ideal. The rapid development of advanced technology makes multiculturalism stand out and also makes conflicts between China and the West increase. In that case, it becomes more and more important to recognize the similarities and differences of costume culture between China and the West.
Nowadays, the whole world is, to some extent, dominated by the western costume culture, which has wound its way into the daily life of the whole world, together with technology, life style and values from the West. Quite popular in China, it’s nominally called “internationalization” or “globalization”. In recent years, the costume industry of China has developed swiftly. The “international” costume,
featured by the western costume culture, has become a pretty important part of our daily life.
However, as our economy takes off, international status rises and living standard improves, a wave of national costume culture resurgence is rising. Moreover, people from the West pay more and more attention to the giant dragon in the East——China.
Western costume designers constantly introduce Chinese costume cultural elements to their latest designs. Those phenomena arouse a series of thoughts: what distinguishes Chinese costume culture from the western one? Are there any similarities between them? What kind of costume culture will we Chinese hold as the mainstream in the future, the so-called “international” western one, the Chinese one or the fusion of the two? To obtain the answers to these questions, we are supposed to study and contrast carefully the characteristics and developing processes of them, and then draw some regularity.
To contrast the costume culture between China and the West, it is necessary for us to master a good knowledge of the Chinese and western costume cultural characteristics.
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1 CHINESE AND WESTERN DRESS
1.1 The different features of Chinese and western dress
China is known as “Xia” as it’s a land of propriety, and it’s also known as “Hua” with
?the beauty of its costume. (《左传》p83) Our national costume is Hanfu. It originated
in the Yanhuang era, formed in the Spring and Autumn Period and officially took form in Han Dynasty. That’s the reason why it’s called “Hanfu”. Since then, in spite of
historical evolutions of all ages, their basic characteristics have never changed. Hanfu, on the whole, can be divided into four developing stages: Zhou Han Hanfu, Wei Jin Hanfu, Sui Tang Hanfu and Song Ming Hanfu. Zhou Han Hanfu was featured by dignity and simplicity, while Wei Jin Hanfu by chic and elegance, Sui Tang Hanfu by dignified, graceful, elegant and poised style. Hanfu in Song and Ming Dynasties epitomizes the characteristics of the past-simple, dignified, elegant, etc. In Qing Dynasty, Hanfu was forbidden by the government and disappeared from the land of China.
The main features of Chinese clothing are focusing on the right collar’s overlap, the band deducted hidden, big sleeves, no buttons and using string binding, giving the impression of free and easy flowing. These characteristics are obviously different from those of other ethnic costumes. Hanfu is divided into uniform and common clothing. With strict standards, uniform is dressed on formal occasions while the common clothing, without long sleeves, is very convenient to people’s daily life.
However, the western clothing is different form the Chinese clothing. The West belongs to Marine civilization, it emphasizes the subjective and objective separation and that we should rationally treat clothing, advocate releasing personality, stress dress effect and be good at showing beautiful the posture of the body. Besides, we use various clipping, color collocation means to perfect bodily curve and give a person with visual comfort in the modeling.
A suit, also known as a business suit, comprises a collection of matching clothing consisting of: a coat?commonly known as a jacket?,a waistcoat?optional??USA
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vest?for men, a pair of trousers?USA pants?, or for women, a shirt or trousers.
A suit is generally accompanied by torment, a shirt and tie or for women, a blouse.
1.2 Why people wear clothing
Chinese people are concerned more about its social function of helping to rule a country well than that of keeping warm or decorating. It has a lot to do with ruling a country to regulate the dressing way of the common people. Nevertheless, the westerners pay more attention to its wealth value and function. Therefore, people put on clothing for functional and social reasons.
1.2.1 The functional reason
The first use of clothing is to resist the cold and cover the body. Functions of clothing include providing the human body protection against extremes of climate (extreme heat, icy winters, and drenching storms) and protection against insects, noxious, chemicals, and contact with abrasive substances. In sum, clothing protects human beings against anything that might injure the naked, unprotected human body.
1.2.2 The social reason
Clothing also delivers social messages to other humans. Social messages sent by clothing, accessories, and decorations can involve social status, occupation, ethnic and religious belief, marital status, cultural degree and sexual availability, etc. For example, only Roman citizens can wear “Toga” in Rome while dragon robe can only
be dressed by the emperor in China.
2 CULTURAI DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CHINESE AND WESTERN CLOTHING
As the saying goes~"People rely on apparel, beauty relies on good make-up". This is the same between China and the West, but for the specific performance - it will be different.
Chinese clothing culture differs from western clothing culture in the following
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The Chinese style is decided by the unique Chinese culture and the Oriental body feature. As the curve of we yellow race’s body is not so obvious, and Chinese are
fastidious about self-respect, implicitly and the doctrine of the mean, our clothing is a straight overall with wide coat and fat sleeves, which emphasizes plane design. Men’s wear is a one-piece robe while women’s wear is a short Chinese-style jacket
and a long skirt. The western style is determined by the western aesthetic thought of pragmatism and nationalism and the white race’s body structure. Their body curve is pretty sharp. Stressing scientific nature, the western clothing is in keeping with the law of motion. Its semi-stereoscopic designed with muffs, puckers, etc. Besides, it advocates individuality and physical beauty. Various kinds of designs sharply revealed the body line. Men wear a suit of coat and trousers while women wear a one-piece dress. In a word, Chinese costume culture is a “covering” one while the western one is a “revealing” one.
Chinese clothing color lays particular stress on ethic and asks for maintaining social order, but western-style clothing color lays particular stress on emotion and pays attention to psychological adjustment. The most important factor is the color element of clothing. Clothing color falls into two colors which are the pure color and the secondary color in ancient China. The pure color is blue, yellow, red, white and black, the other colors are secondary color, and it provides that: ；The upper
?garment is the pure color, the under garment is the secondary color.； (《礼记?玉
》) Darker colors were favored over lighter ones in traditional Chinese clothing, so 藻
the main color of ceremonial clothing tended to be dark while bright. Lighter colored clothing was worn more frequently by the common people for everyday. Chinese are said to have a fully developed system of matching, coordinating colors and shades of light and dark in clothing.
People in ancient China also use different colors of clothing to distinguish people’s identity. The black color was regarded as the one of the Celestial Ruler
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Supreme God to rule everything. So in the Xia Shang and Zhou Dynasty, the clothing was mainly black. With the development of the feudal Unitarianism, people began to adore the ground (yellow) instead of god (black). So it formed the rulers in ancient China believed in the theory of “Five Element”. They though the blue, red yellow, white and black represented respectively five elements of the wood, fire, earth, gold and water. “Yellow, regarded as the noblest, symbolized the east?red, the south?
white；the west; and black, the north. These five colors were “principal colors,” and in some dynasties were exclusive to the garment of emperors and officials, Common
?people were allowed to wear only secondary colors.”(Zhi 73) This system of
clothing colors had lasted to the Qing Dynasty and the yellow robe had been the symbol of imperial power all the time. The red color is regarded as an auspicious color. While having a happy event, such as wedding, the bride and bridegroom will wear red clothes and shoes in ancient China to show their happy feelings and wishes for good luck. Today Chinese people still tend to choose red color on happy occasion.
2.3 Pattern and ornaments
The former emphasizes color matching, pattern design, the effect of embroidery and the change of the clothing’s front piece, collar, sleeves, and buckles and so on. Representing the Chinese writers’ ideal spirits, plum blossom, orchid, and chrysanthemum and pine tree can be commonly seen on Chinese clothing. Among all ornaments, the jade is the most popular one. However, the latter pays more attention to the lace and embroidery of the neck, chest and sleeves. The patterns are mostly regular pomegranate grains and water chestnut lines. Its layout is symmetrical, modeling full and colors gorgeous. The female attire is usually decorated with jewelry like pearls and diamonds. Besides, the hat and gloves are indispensable ornaments. For men, a hat and a walking stick are enough.
The relationship of human to nature is also reflected in the choice of the materials. During the Stone Age, Chinese invented the bone awl and the bone needle and created primitive clothing with the aid of these tools. Approximately 5000 years ago, China was in the Neolithic Primitive agriculture and the textiles industry. At first
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people use plant fiber, such as linen, ramie, etc., and animal fibers, such as wool to weave. Later they discovered how to raise the silk worn and spin silk, and the pure silk clothes were liked by many Chinese people, especially the wealthy. It is a symbol of their social status. Silk is a great contribution to human life from Chinese people, so it is impossible to talk Chinese clothing culture without silk.
In a word, Chinese clothing prefers silk, cotton, linen and co-hemp while the western one tends to use flax, wool, cotton and velvet. The silk is one of the contributions China has made to the world. “We westerners have received too much
?from the Chinese.” (法国服装设计师伊夫?圣?洛朗； 中国美术馆举办作品回顾展时的前言；
1985年5月?The former adopts basting, hand needle and patch while the latter pays more attention to adapting to clothing’s function in sewing craft.
2.5 Structure and Modeling
“The elegant line depends primarily on the structure of purity and refinement.”
?，Yves Saint Laurent：It reflects that the structure is very important for clothing. The structure of Chinese-style costume is completely planar, straight and comfortable. However, the structure of Western-style dress is stereo split type and suitable the body.
Chinese clothing modeling is closed and implicative, western clothing modeling is open and revealed. Some people also regard clothing modeling as dress design or style. In fact, modeling and style have connections and differences. Generally speaking, modeling refers to the contour of clothing, which is a big picture, such as the popularly loose H-type or tight-fitting X-type. At present, Chinese people often mix the clothing modeling and clothing style. It is the shape of clothing design, but also the combination of clothing inside sew and the decoration of detail. Traditional Chinese costumes ask the human body to be tightly wrapped by the closely collar, wide clothing, long sleeves and pants, skirts, and it seems like a pocket, the human body is inside. It is extremely closed, conservative and dull. For thousands of years, if it is not up and down separate "clothing system", it is connected from top to bottom "deep clothing system". Whether man's robes, or woman's skirts, legs are always wrapped by leather gear, long clothing drags to the ground and inside and
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outside of clothes are overlapping, these are commonly referred to as “triple clothing” or “Five clothing."
As western dress concept advocates revealing the human body, focusing on self-expression, and shows off the beauty of its own. Consequently, in terms of clothing style, it becomes open, revealing and varied. All types of bare, open styles are still the mainstream of western-style clothing, all kinds of large collar, V-neck, short sleeve and waistcoat sleeves are frequently used. Women are fond of choosing those thin and transparent materials which are graceful and elegant；beautifully
wrought. When wearing them, as if your body is wrapped by gauzes, and you are wonderful and charming. Western-style modeling is particular about nudity besides concealment. They have a variety of wrap-style clothing, but their clothing is different from Chinese clothing. Tight western-style clothing is the style of three-dimensional and narrow, clothing closes to the human body, can absolutely show the bodily curves and can fully reveal the beauty of human body. As Lu Xun said: ；The concealment is sometimes more attractive than the nudity, it is concealment and stimulation, concealment and obstacles will have the wonderful and unpredictable psychological effect.；So western-style dress modeling belongs to
two forms of the same subject.
3 AN ANALYSIS OF CHINESE AND WESTERN DRESS CULTURE
3.1 Geographical environment
The geographical environment is one of the main reasons why these differences are formed. As we all known, western civilization originates from the Aegean Sea. But, the main development is in the Mediterranean region, thus western civilization is also called as Marine civilization. This determines the westerners’ export-oriented
character: open, active and the curiosity of the outside world. Performance in the clothing is making widely known, seek strong effect. In contrast, the Chinese geographical environment is closed: The outside of east coastline without near continent and large islands, therefore, it hardly goes to sea. West and Eurasian area is almost cut by mountains, the Pamir’s and the Tibet plateau which is called the roof of the world, the only Silk Road also need pass through desolate desert and big Gobi
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Desert. So, it is extremely difficult for ancient Chinese people whose transport is underdeveloped to walk out. In addition, China itself has vast territory and abundant natural resources, It is not necessary to go out. This creates Chinese introverted personality. It reflects in the garment is implicit and does not appear, the human body is hidden in clothing.
3.2 The historical reason
Speaking from the historical reasons, if we took the whole European as a large group, it should turn into a history of conquests and dominations between nations as well as peoples. When a nation is powerful and occupies dominant position, its culture and reflecting the dress of the culture will have an affect on the other peoples and nations. For instance, Spain was unprecedented in the 16th century. The Spanish government implements the clothing of Spanish style, and the most typical dress is Raff collar, corselet and bustle. And both men and women add a lot of filler in clothes to model a stiff and mechanical appearance, it is beginning with Spain that men’s
clothing advocates black. British began industrial revolution in the 17th century, making its men’s clothing the earliest towards the modernized direction of development. Since then, British men's clothing has been regarded as a classic. In contrast, the development of Chinese history is basically a vertical development of the various dynasties, little change in territory. This determines the traditional Chinese clothing is not too much change, although absorbing Minority costumes in the history, the dominant position is always Han clothing and culture, even as the Qing Dynasty which forces implementation of the Manchu clothing with the power of the government, but in fact, Manchu is ultimately the same as Chinese in political culture, so the Han clothing culture is derived from the same origin, it is historical continuity and it decides that Chinese clothing could not have happened very unexpected change.
3.3 The political reason
Speaking from the political reasons, most of China's history is in a state of unity, it begins with one person who rules the world from the Yellow emperor. The unified thoughts follow China for two thousand years, and kings in the past dynasties
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constantly reinforce this thinking. This unity incarnates all aspects, but the most essential is the ideological and cultural unity and the unity of the concept. The biggest role of clothing is to distinguish the class in ancient China, people of each class have agency in fashion and clothing is given strong political and theoretical colors, even the aristocracy would not easily make changes to the dress, because it may touch on moral and ethical issues.
Westerners take themselves as masters of the world and the ruler of the world. They are self-centered, make every effort to tap into the power of people, release human potential, advocate hard competition and make desires expand. They strongly express individuality in dress and emphasize the beauty of the exaggerated human body. To varying degrees, they violate the course of nature.
4 CHINESE AND WESTERN DRESS AESTHETIC CULTURE AND DRESS
4.1 Dress aesthetic culture
There are many differences between Chinese and western dress aesthetic culture.
1. Western culture originated in Marine civilization, cultural instinct is more open and easy to fuse outland costume culture. Chinese culture originated in mainland civilization, cultural instinct is more closed. It has stubborn "the original body" consciousness in the clothing. Traditional costume forms stable position for thousands of years, it is relatively difficult to absorb foreign clothing.
2. Western culture is good at expressing contradiction and conflict, which emphasizes stimulation and extreme form in apparel structure. Chinese culture is a harmonious culture, which emphasizes the equilibrium, symmetry and unified costume modeling method. It is beautiful for rule and stable.
3. Western culture is a simile culture, which lays stress on modeling, line, design and color with visual comfortable for the first. Chinese culture is a metaphor culture, whose art lays stress on lyricism. It pursues the spiritual implication and cultural grade of the clothing inscape.
4. Western culture advocates the beauty of human body, which takes seriously to show human sexual difference. It does not taboo on performing sexy. Classical mode is a performance of secondary sex characteristics, women like the nude neck,
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